LISTEN TO TLR’S LATEST PODCAST:
By Amber Loveshe
In the fall of 2016, the University of Chicago made headlines across the country for sending home a letter to incoming students stating that the university would be upholding freedom of expression on campus. This initiative, highly publicized across the country, is in stark contrast with the types of speech codes currently in place at hundreds of other colleges. Shockingly, many public campuses, which are funded in part by the government, declare specified areas on campus appropriate for free flowing discourse, and these areas are often not in the classroom.
In theory, higher education is meant to bring students into a community focused on discussing ideals and understanding varying viewpoints in order to gain a better worldview. Instead, on today’s campuses, expressing dissent is discouraged unless the dissent fits a particular narrative deemed appropriate by the administration. By forming a faux-inclusive environment, these institutions are manipulating students into assuming that shutting down arguments is preferable to openly contesting different viewpoints.
Young Americans for Liberty, the fastest growing pro-liberty movement, with 900 chapters across the country, is leading the charge against these unconstitutional speech codes. YAL has challenged hundreds of unconstitutional speech codes and has successfully overturned 13 to date, restoring first amendment rights to tens of thousands of students. And they show no signs of slowing down, with 132 speech reform campaigns in motion currently. Nathan Berning, an activist with the group, told The Libertarian Republic about the challenges he faced trying to combat these university policies. While recruiting students at Grand Valley State University, Berning and several students were stopped by an administrator while they were handing out Constitutions because they were not recruiting in one of the designated speech zones on campus. They were then forced to move to the designated area of campus and register with the administration, simply to start conversations with passing students about liberty.
Even scarier, at many campuses across the country, YAL has witnessed college bureaucrats selectively enforcing their restrictive speech codes. For example, a student may engage in pro-choice activism outside of a specified speech zone, and not receive any resistance from administration. However, if the same student were to participate in pro-life activism, the school could employ these selectively enforced policies, and use the threat of campus security to halt the speech. Several Young Americans for Liberty members have faced sanctions from their university, simply because the school deemed the message to be in contrast with university values.
To advance this fight, Young Americans for Liberty is continuously mobilizing students across the country to rally against their administrators. Alex Staudt, Young Americans for Liberty’s Director of Free Speech describes that YAL, “helps to educate students about their First Amendment rights on campus, while alerting them of the egregious violations of those rights taking place today. When University officials catch wind of this, they often turn to censorship in hopes of stomping us out, but we only fight back 100x stronger. Young Americans for Liberty is running a top-tier youth organization, so bureaucrats better watch out.” Not only have they given students an opportunity to use their leadership skills to challenge the status quo, but they have also successfully captured footage of why this activism is important. Activists captured footage of a campus police officer at Arkansas Tech University who told students that university policy trumps the constitution, when asking students to stop throwing a free speech beach ball around campus.
While Young Americans for Liberty has been successful in achieving this goal at many campuses, the fight is not over. It is unconstitutional to limit anyone’s dialogue, and the people should question anyone in power who deems it permissible to do so. Join the fight for free speech at your local campus, take on the administration and prove that the next generation will not tolerate being pushed into free speech zones created by bureaucrats threatened by free flowing discourse.